Is It Time To Clip America's Global Wings?

Apr 11, 2011

As the United States grapples with a struggling economy and continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some argue that it's time to scale back its role in the world.

But others say that it's in the United States' interest to continue to be a strong leader and to act where it can.

Four experts recently took on the topic, facing off two against two in an Oxford-style debate on the motion "It's Time To Clip America's Global Wings."

Before the debate, part of the Intelligence Squared U.S. series, the audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 37 percent in favor of the motion and 26 percent against, with 37 percent undecided. After the debate, 47 percent were for the motion — up 10 points — and 44 percent were against — up 18 points — making the side arguing against clipping America's global wings the winners. Nine percent remained undecided.

John Donvan, correspondent for ABC News' Nightline, moderated the April 5 debate. Those debating:


Peter Galbraith is a Vermont state senator and the senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms Control. Before joining the center, he was a professor of national security strategy at the National War College. Galbraith was the first U.S. ambassador to Croatia and mediated the Erdut Agreement, ending the Croatia War in 1995. His senior government positions include being deputy special representative of the secretary-general of the United Nations to Afghanistan in 2009.

Lawrence Korb is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Korb served as assistant secretary of defense (manpower, reserve affairs, installations and logistics) from 1981 through 1985. In that position, he administered about 70 percent of the defense budget. Korb served on active duty for four years as naval flight officer and retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of captain. He received his doctorate in political science from the State University of New York at Albany.


Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was deputy national security adviser in charge of Middle Eastern affairs in the George W. Bush administration. From 1996 until joining the White House staff, Abrams was president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He was the assistant secretary of the state for U.N. affairs, human rights and Latin America in the Reagan administration.

Eliot Cohen is the Robert E. Osgood professor of strategic studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and founding director of the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. His books include Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime, and with John Gooch, Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War. He directed the U.S. Air Force's official study of the 1991 Gulf War, and has served on a variety of government advisory boards, including the Defense Policy Board. From 2007 to 2009, he served as counselor of the Department of State. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit